Review: Ghostbusters (Eric Walkuski's take)
PLOT: After it becomes obvious that a supernatural presence (or several of them) is haunting the city of New York, four women decide to pool their resources and become the Ghostbusters.
REVIEW: I walked into GHOSTBUSTERS with an open mind, ready to like it. Shouldn’t have to preface a review that way, but you know how it goes with this particular movie. In any case, as someone who likes but doesn’t love the 1984 original, this reboot didn’t mortify me the same way it did others. Director Paul Feig’s track record is spotty, but I quite enjoyed his last film, SPY, and the cast he assembled here is pretty solid. The trailers weren’t doing it for me, but hey, not all trailers tell the whole story. If GHOSTBUSTERS was going to be good, I’d be very happy to admit it.
It’s not too good. It’s not quite bad, but it never rises above being mediocre. It’s a clumsy film, and seems to come from the school of “louder is funnier,” where everybody’s always talking at an abnormally high volume in the hopes that will make the ho-hum jokes better. The cast is still likable but they’re not a part of an interesting story, just a product. I’m fine with people liking this movie, but I hope they like it because they actually think it’s good, and not because of the “oh my gosh they’re girls” angle (just as I hope no one hates it for that reason alone, but I think we’ve already seen that’s too much to hope for).
Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy star as old friends Erin and Abby, who’ve gone a long time without talking to each other; they wrote a book about the paranormal together once, but now Erin is attempting to shed that part of her life and focus on teaching at Columbia. Her past comes roaring back when she discovers Abby is still hawking that book, which could be damaging to Erin’s reputation. A confrontation ends with an opportunity: a historical house in New York City has been the site of some supernatural activity, and before she knows it, Erin is dragged along by Abby - and her quirky colleague Jillian (Kate McKinnon) to the place, where they’re promptly met by a ooze-spewing ghost. The evidence is in: Ghosts are real, and they’re starting to pop up all over the city.
That’s about it as far as plot is concerned. The trio is eventually joined by street smart Patty (Leslie Jones), who has a spooky experience of her own in the subway, and Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) who acts as their receptionist but is so utterly stupid that he can’t even answer the phone. Eventually there are some possessions, ghost attacks and a supernatural showdown in Times Square, all of it rather noisy and inconsequential. The villain, played by Neil Casey, is completely uninteresting, and his schemes are arbitrary. We barely get a sense of why he's doing what he's doing or how he's doing it, but the movie's too busy pushing on with nonsensical tangents to worry all that much about it. It would be pretty cool if the movie had a bad guy to root against and a story to invest in, but Feig and co-writer Kate Dippold don't appear to think so. I understand the Ghostbusters themselves are the point, and it's necessary to set them up as characters, but wouldn't it be more involving to introduce them in a plot that's exciting, against a villain who's formidable?
Certainly the movie is never scary or exciting, but it’s a comedy first, so that’s fine. Problem is, it’s not very funny. The movie's issues are, I think, exemplified with the Hemsworth character, who is a strange case. Kevin is dumb, very dumb. Sure, we can run with that, but the movie makes him not only dumb but nearly mentally challenged. Example: someone tells him not to listen to a conversation and he covers his eyes. Huh? Even the dumbest person on earth wouldn't do that. The movie seems to grasp for jokes, wanting to please and trying anything that might work. It's not satisfied making Hemsworth a dope, it has to make him stupid on a level that's cartoonish and unconvincing. (I know we don't go to Ghostbusters for "convincing," but this is what happens when a movie's comedy is falling flat and your attention wanders elsewhere.) We can't even care about him - or Wiig's awkward attraction to him - because he doesn't remotely resemble a human being. It's like he's from another planet. (That said, Hemsworth tackles the role with a big smile on this face; he's hard not to enjoy.)
I don't want to compare the remake to the original (too much) but what's missing is the sort of "everyman" quality that the original cast, Bill Murray in particular, brought to it. The most "normal" character is Wiig's, but even she seems like she's doing schtick most of the time. You need someone who's grounded, deadpan. Everybody here is silly. McKinnon fares the best; she's certainly the stand out, but even her character's quirks are ultimately more repetitive than useful. She talks in odd ways and is has an overall bizarre disposition, but to what end, exactly? Again, she never seems like a real person, just a kook who is weird for the sake of being weird.
GHOSTBUSTERS often seems to be straining for laughs, giving its characters way too much time conversing at length in search of a funny line. When in doubt, the film has the characters snarking at each other but there's no real wit to their interactions. For reference, Feig's SPY was a much nimbler, clever comedy, milking real laughs from its dim-witted characters and their adventures. GHOSTBUSTERS doesn't seem to know how to make its situations entertaining, it just becomes loud and goofy and throws ectoplasm (or whatever else) all over the place. There's also plenty of fan service - from cameos to visual callbacks to the original - which gets pretty annoying after a while. We get it, we're watching GHOSTBUSTERS and you want us to know you've seen the original too.
The good? Aside from the cast being generally amiable, the visual effects are very cool; the bright, glowy apparitions are a feast for the eyes. I saw the film in IMAX 3D and the 3D is legitimately good, especially during any ghost sequence. The images appear to pour off the screen in 3D, utilizing the format in frequently unique ways.
I don't hold any ill will toward GHOSTBUSTERS. It doesn't work for me but I don't think it's worthy of hatred or scorn. It ambles along and puts on a semi-watchable show, but there's nothing memorable about it aside from the fact it's called GHOSTBUSTERS. When the inevitable sequel happens, I hope the creators inject the characters into a juicy story, and let the jokes happen organically instead of attempting to force them down our throats.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...